For one tiny thing, you can see an entire 1973 America in The Horror at 37,000 Feet, in all of its suppositions and stereotypes and styles. But more to the point, I’d rather watch it than any of the last dozen 21st-century superhero sequels or alien-robot blockbusters or CGI disaster epics, because these feel to me to be movies made by robots. Within this purview, the crude short cuts and sense of chintzy, rambunctious tumult spilling out of something like … Read More
But for the average filmgoer, the problems with Winter’s Tale do not arise merely from how it departs from Helprin’s text—or, you could say, how the movie insults it, beats it with an axe handle, and then urinates on its prone form. The real issue is with the existential essence of fantasy films in general.
If an entire national film heritage seems to be a formidable and inviolate thing, something incapable of being forgotten or erased, then consider Cambodia. The story told in Davy Chou’s documentary Golden Slumbers staggers the imagination, and will rewrite any ideas you’ve maintained about how movies function in the culture at large. For one thing, the existential reality of cinema can absolutely be erased by merciless political action.
All we know for certain are the movies themselves—which are products sold to us, of course, but also living cultural experiences that we are free to judge, love, hate, dissect and, in a very real sense, own. Woody Allen’s movies, for example, are not his, they’re mine, and my overriding concerns are how to watch them, how to think about them, how they may or may not deepen or expand my time on planet Earth. So my query remains: would … Read More
Sometimes we loved the wink, if it was dry and witty and sophisticated enough. But an artiste’s cooptation of lowdown genres always had its pitfalls. That changed with Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville. No introduction to this subterranean lark should be required, but looking at it again, it’s ever more clearly a genre-art-film lab explosion: equal parts referential film noir, dystopian sci-fi, Godardian self-referentiality, unstable espionage thriller, genre satire, Melvillian-Beckettian existentialism, meditation on proto-semiotic “rupture,” and so on.
In the USSR, a poster for tractors was science fiction. The outright expressions of science-fiction science fiction, like Cosmic Voyage, were the most euphoric and fetishistic genre texts made anywhere on Earth. What was intended then as sky-high propaganda comes off now—which is maybe how it was scanned in the mid-century by natives, too—as playground daydreams.
The Gothic details of Bava’s film, fabulously wrought though they are, aren’t of much interest; what’s fascinating is the maddened sexual need at the center of the movie. Because it’s a ghost story, The Whip and the Body uses sadomasochism not as a mere perversion or violent gag, but as a devastatingly terminal metaphor for love. The story is actually a parable about romantic passion at its extreme edges, where physical contact isn’t enough—where nothing is enough.
Each war has generated its own distinctive variety of films, through which we largely remember the war and come to characterize it years later. If movie-WWII is a vast battle against maniacal war-machine evil, and the movie-Vietnam War is a soul-destroying boondoggle-in-the-jungle, then movie-WWI is a continental folly predicated on the stupefying conflict between 19th-century war-making habits and the merciless feed-the-grinder technological reality of 1915.
Top ten lists are becoming more dubious, of course, because they have proliferated like cockroaches in a tenement, and because what constitutes a “release” becomes an increasingly vexing question with each successive year; so many people have migrated their viewing habits entirely to various streaming video platforms that a common conversation can’t be said to exist.